Essay: On REI’s ‘Opt Outside’ Campaign
(2016) The year was 1863 and Abraham Lincoln, America’s sixteenth president, signed a proclamation of Thanksgiving. In the States, Americans gather around a table more populous than normal, more plentiful than normal, and imbibe in a long social gathering. It has been officially held on the last Thursday each November in the spirit of Dutch and English Puritans who struggled through the harsh New England winter. It is when Americans give thanks.
Sadly over time, Thanksgiving night has become a cyclocross start of sorts for the holiday shopping season. News channels cover people lined up for hours in the hopes of scoring deals. People go elbows out as they maneuver through the electronic sliding doors on the path to fighting for low, low prices. Sometimes, those items purchased are for the very person running through the store and not some significant other.
Refreshingly though, stores have started to push back. Led by the outdoor retailer REI, stores have begun to opt out of the stampede stigma known as Black Friday. The moniker’s label has been debated, but it is believed businesses would rely on sales to put profits in the black. Perhaps Red Friday isn’t the best outcome.
Instead of standing in line, you can find us riding our bike. If the bike can’t be mounted then something outside will be substituted. With Small Business Saturday coming tomorrow, albeit not a sale day of sorts, it would be prudent of the outdoor community to forego the shopping mentality and interact with nature. Henry David Thoreau wrote entire essays imploring such a concept.
If there’s one bit holding people back, it could be the belief that the product they wanted to stand in line may not be available after today. As Ed Viesturs said about mountaineering, “The mountain will always be there.” In other words, whatever product people are pining after, have no fear. They will make more of it. Sure the price tag may be a little different, but being outside can’t be priced out. Opt outside. It may be quieter out there today.